Welcome to the latest episode of Upon Reflection. This time, I read my paper with Michał Białek, “Your health vs. my liberty: Philosophical beliefs dominated reflection and identifiable victim effects when predicting public health recommendation compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic” (Total N = 998). As the title suggests we found that complying with public health recommendations didn’t depend on whether people received messaging about identifiable COVID-19 victims or statistical victims in flatten the curve graphs. Rather compliance increased the more that people endorsed an effective altruist principle about reducing harm and the more that they endorsed the truth of scientific theories, but compliance decreased as people valued liberty more than equality. Importantly, we also found that people were less likely to prevent the spread of disease by wearing masks and staying at home if the pandemic was equally deadly, but labeled as a “flu” pandemic—-mostly because they perceived this as less threatening to society. We think this suggests that people’s life-threatening decisions to flout public health recommendations like mask-wearing and staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic was not just about ineffective messaging, but also about their prior philosophical commitments.
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